Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın paid a visit Sunday to the grave of prominent singer Ahmet Kaya in Paris' Pere Lachaise Cemetery, remarking that the artist was one of the most talented in Turkish history. The spokesman was accompanied by Turkish ambassador to France, İsmail Hakkı Musa during the visit.
"His story is deeply saddening, as he had to leave the country he loved," he added, mentioning the Kurdish-origin artist's efforts to contribute to the peace and unity in Turkey.
Kaya was subjected to heavy criticism and protests in the turmoil of late 1990s, in which the Feb. 28 post-modern coup d'état was staged and a hawkish government cracked down on Turkey's Kurdish-origin citizens. During that period, it was common for Kurds to be arrested arbitrarily without evidence of membership in the PKK terrorist group.
"When it was needed, he defended the right of women to wear headscarves wherever they went. When our President was sentenced to jail for reading a poem, he was in the crowd supporting him," Kalın said after laying flowers on the grave and praying, touching upon the now-abolished ban on wearing headscarves in public places and the fact that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, then mayor of Istanbul, was sentenced to jail in 1999 for reciting a poem of Zika Gökalp.
"We still miss him, and his country still remembers him with gratitude," he added.
"He faced injustice during the February 28 period," Kalın said, referencing the hawkish and ultra-secular attitude of the government and military tutelage that Turkey faced in 1990s.
"Under the leadership of our President, we are now working to achieve unity with all citizens from every ethnicity and background," Kalın concluded.
On Feb. 10, 1999, during a televised annual music awards ceremony, Kaya announced that he had recorded a song in Kurdish and intended to make an accompanying music video. This announcement incited strong criticism against the singer.
Following threats to his life, as well as the risk of standing trial for his earlier expressions on the Kurdish issue, Kaya left Turkey for Paris, where he died of a heart attack in 2000 at the age of 43.
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